Monday, April 29th, 2013

International Jewellery Collaborations: Cultural Diversity and Cultural Interaction through the Medium of Contemporary Jewellery (and Part Two)

Essay by Annelisse Pfeifer



Third collaboration: BORAX 08001 collective:

In contrast to Connecting Identitites that explored the outcomes that can be achieved when students are exposed to connect with another unknown identity, Borax 08001 differs by exploring the outcomes of artists who have chosen to work together to achieve the purposes of common interest. Borax 08001 is an ongoing collective, originating in 2010 and formed by artists from diverse places around the world. The name ‘Borax’ comes from the commonly used component in jewellery used as an aid to prevent oxide when soldering metal together .The number ‘08001’ stands for the postcode of Escola Massana in Barcelona where participants met whilst completing their jewellery studies. Relevantly, before some of the artists came to study jewellery at Massana, they had experience in other fields. The collective provided a vehicle for continued development of skills, shared experiences, encouraging the exchange of ideas, and support for one another. I believe when working in a collective, one of the exceptional advantages is that each individual contributes their own abilities, qualities, and contacts to the group, creating a broader range of opportunities. However, individuality is essential as collective pieces are not created (Figs.13,14), instead each artist works on their personal project, and meanwhile support, help, and motivation are provided by the group.



(Fig13) Trinidad Contreras brooch

Fig. 13: Object Memory, Brooche Trinidad Contreras (no date)


(Fig14) Dalia Jurado Brooch

Fig. 14: Lilith and the love affairs, Brooche, Dalia Jurado (no date)


Differences act as a positive influence, enlightening the group as ideas feed in and act as inspiration. With 8 different nationalities from across the world, the various existing realities prove valueable. For them it is interesting to know and understand how other cultures perceive and approach certain matters. However, the different cultural backgrounds were not what brought them to work together as a group, one artist from the collective states:

“Initially the group was formed regardless of the diversity of cultures, and only by the affinity between us and the fact that we functioned as a group, we were always together. Then as we started working together in different projects, we were noticing that beyond a personal vision, coming from different cultural backgrounds was something very enriching for the collective.” (Rois, 2012)

My belief is that in order to integrate a group, affinity between the participants is essential, holding them together, bringing harmony and fluidity to the interchange of ideas. It also contributes to more successful and improved future developments. The objectives and interests that Borax 08001 has as a collective are very promising. They believe in jewellery as a medium of self-expression but, in addition the most important issue is to interact with the public outside the field of contemporary jewellery, raising awareness that jewellery is not only an ornament, but also a “form or art” (Borax 08001, n.d.).

The collective aims to promote jewellery in a wider context, creating “a link between Jewellery and the city as a place for exhibition”…to “establish new exhibition formats adapted to the collective’s needs” (ibid).

From my perspective, the issues and common interests of a collective have very important factors in the field of contemporary jewellery. It is inspiring to see how all the artists are committed to pushing the boundries of discipline on their own terms, by trying to engage with the public more directly in different ways, and create meaningful dialogues. The way I invisage contemporary jewellery is a form of dialogue, a medium to connect with others, a language with no barriers to self-expression. Naturally, it is inevitable that work is evaluated when exposed to the public, but a dialogue is not always present. However, it appears that not all the artists are concerned with the idea of contemporary jewellery being better understood by the wider public. To add to this Van Oost states (2012):

“Sometimes you might be surprised by the reaction of the public. Some people that is not aware of jewellery say to me ‘I don’t [sic] understand your work but I am trying’, I say to them ‘Just feel it! Don’t [sic] try to understand it.’ It is good that a piece creates a dialogue- it is all about dialogue.”




Fig. 15: What do you have in your hands? Project, photographs, Borax 08001 (2011)


The first project Borax 08001 performed as a collective was What do you have in your hands? in summer 2011 when jewellery was presented to a wider public. In contrast to the previous collaborations, exhibits of jewellery pieces went onto the streets of different European and Latin American cities displaying to people with no knowledge of contemporary jewellery. They were allowed to handle the pieces and were asked: What do you have in your hands? First impressions were recorded through photographs (Fig.15), as pieces were explored and interacted with.


(Fig16) Jewellery Displaced-Borax


(Fig17) Jewellery Displaced -Borax

Fig. 16, 17: Jewellery Displaced Project – Amsterdam, photographs, Borax 08001 (2011)


The following project by the collective, Jewellery Displaced, was presented at the B-Festival in Amsterdam (3rd-6thNovember 2011). In contrast to What do you have in your hands?  this project aimed to bring jewellery further from its ordinary context by using the maker’s bodies and enlarged photographs of the pieces to exhibit in the city. These photographs “adapted better to that of the city” (Borax, 2011) and had a wonderful impact on the public, who seemed to notice jewellery more when it was presented by either enlarged photographs, or exhibited on the artist’s body.

With this project both artists and public were brought together to interact, dialogue and discuss the jewellery pieces/objects (Figs.16,17). Both projects were successful and had excellent results as Gimeno (2012) states:

“With these two projects we have somehow connected the idea of jewellery with other sectors of society that are far from knowing, or consider that jewellery can also be an element of communication as it is art, and not just an ornament. These projects have provided us with the necessary experience as a collective to find out what we can do together, and the magnitude we can achieve being from different countries, latitudes and cultures enriches and expands our collective goals.”

Borax 08001 proved to take advantage of the cultural diversity and interaction that existed within the collective through the medium of contemporary jewellery. They perceive all the diversity as positive, therefore pushing forward to achieve their objectives. The projects mentioned above illustrate how the collective worked as whole and how the diversity of nationalities in the group acknowledged the importance of approaching a wider audience outside the field of contemporary jewellery. Summing up, Martinez Linares (2013) states:

“Individually each has a very own way of making, I think the work is enhanced having more information and varied cultural experiences. Collectively we can make projects that are not limited to an exhibition space or a type of society in a particular country. Naturally projects with a more international vision have emerged.”




Fourth collaboration: GRAY AREA GRIS symposium


Where Borax 08001 was concerned with the diverse ways contemporary jewellery could be presented and viewed by the public, Gray Area Gris was more focused on global mobility, identity, and creating links between the contemporary jewellery from Latin America and Europe. The Gray Area, better known as Walking the Gray Area symposium, took place in Mexico City in 2010 (Figs.18,19). The Mexican curator, Dutch resident Valeria Vallarta Siemelink, the German curator and the Dutch resident Andrea Wagner organized this symposium. Gray Area started with the selection of 40 jewellery artists by the curators; 20 artists were from Latin America and the other 20 from Europe. Pairs were made with one Latin American artist and one European artist.


(Fig18) Opening Grey Area Symposium


(Fig19) Opening Grey Area Symposium

Fig. 18, 19: Jose Vasconcelos-Mexican Library (Opening Ceremony of Gray Area Gris Symposium)  – Mexico City, photographs from the Gray Area Symposium blog, (2010)


A blog was created for the artists to work together and for other people to follow the development of the project. Through the blog artists could converse, share information about their work and personal experiences. There were three main topics for the artists to discuss: jewellery, global mobility, and identity. Vallarta Siemelink stated (2009):

“Each artist has a unique approach to jewellery: different ideas, different interests, different materials and techniques, different countries. But all artists have one thing in common: like the curators themselves, they are or have all been migrants: born in one place, living/working/studying in another one.”


(Fig20) The Catalan Landscape-Estela Saez


(Fig21) The Catalan Landscape- Estela Saez

Fig. 20, 21: The Catalan Landscape – The sky, the Mountains – Photographs sent From Estela Saez Villanova to Eugenia Martinez via Gray Area Symposium blog (2009)


One of the most interesting facts about this symposium was that all the participants had experienced migration in one way or another. This lived experience gave the artists the perfect ground to understand global mobility, and the ability to discuss the topic in depth from an informed position. During a year, artists shared not only their discussions, but also all discoveries found on the way. In the blog of the artist’s conversations, research on their individual cultures was identified and to provide better understanding of their cultural backgrounds, the artists also posted quotes from books, photographs, drawings and historical events (Figs.20,21). However, not all the information was shared in the blog, a few of the artists preferred to have a more personal approach through Skype conferences.

The magnitude of the symposium was vast; it embraced not only the 20 pairs of Europeans and Latin American artists, but also other important figures in the field of contemporary jewellery such as L. Den Besten, C. Broadhead, R. Peters, and M. Van Kouswijk. These all travelled to Mexico City from the 12th-16thApril to implement a series of presentations, lectures and workshops. Of his experience, Manilla (2012) states:

“It was a project that had the perfect balance between artistic and cultural communication. I think this project awoke interest especially for more cultural exchanges, for more interaction between countries and artists, and especially awoke the curiosity of Latin Americans by the true meaning of contemporary jewellery and Europeans to see what is done in Latin America.”

Prior to the Gray Area symposium, there were insufficient connections between Latin America and European artists. Most of the exchanges occurring were mainly between Spain and Latin America. More than anything this was happening because artists decided to go and study abroad. After the symposium links were developed between the artists, bridges were built and more projects and International collaborations began emerging. For instance one of these was the En Construccion I symposium which has taken place this year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, bringing new artists and some that had participated in Gray Area. The objectives of En Construccion are contained in the statement below:

“Today we can recognize that the concept of contemporary jewelry [sic] making has evolved into an independent and interdisciplinary field of study; it has become a matter of analysis, experimentation, individual expression and cultural communication, enabling provocation, critic, collection, transmission and generation of meanings. New generations of contemporary jewelry makers invite us to look outside the traditional framework, strengthening the study of the relationship between jewelry and those who possess and wear them, without forgetting their inescapable sense as a cultural object and as a means of artistic expression.” (Dentone, 2012)

The above underlines that the field of contemporary jewellery is in constant change and, as the name of the symposium suggests, is ‘under construction’. I truly believe that the importance of international collaborations and cultural exchange via the medium of contemporary jewellery has become more acknowledged in recent years; international collaborations bringing new opportunities to artists and open new horizons. Furthermore, it helps expand the language of contemporary jewellery bringing new meanings and forms of self-expression. Understanding is another element that comes with it. The benefits from the Gray Area were many; not only did it prompt Europeans and Latin American artists to examine beyond their existing parameters, but also brought a range of different opportunities for many artists. The three topics for discussion served several purposes for the artists: to search within their roots; to reconnect and reflect upon their cultural backgrounds; and to re-evaluate their work and interests. It also took them on a journey of discovery, where they learned about different cultures through the eyes of other artists.

Through experiencing the unknown we are exposed to new-found interests; the will to understand how other artists work and respecting their beliefs became a key element. Gray Area proved that cultural exchanges are important in the field of contemporary jewellery. Collaborating professionally with other international artists allows us to reflect upon our own identity and background, and acknowledges we are part of a global society. Spanish artist, Saez Villanova (2012) states that, from cultural interaction “Knowledge is gained, exchange of experience in a technical level, and mostly conceptual level was a step more to professionalise the practice in some way.” Furthermore, Saez Villanova (ibid) adds, from her experience working with the Argentinian artist Francisca Kweitel, “You have to step into the shoes of the other person, explain to them and continue to function and work as you do normally. You have to allow the person space to fit in, in the same way that person allows you space to adjust to the way they work.” Once again, cultural interaction brings artists challenges, helps them evolve in their practice, and introduces new opportunities. It also creates connections that might lead to future projects, which then contribute to the world of contemporary jewellery as a reference for development.





Having accomplished thorough research and examination of the four different international collaborations, the evidence highlights that cultural interaction and diversity through the medium of contemporary jewellery has very positive outcomes. It is an opportunity to awaken in-depth dialogues, exchange experiences, knowledge, and techniques between artists from all across the world. Furthermore it expands the horizons of contemporary jewellery, preventing segmentation from continent to continent, country to country, or from school to school. The importance of collaboration between diverse cultures results, as Jurado (2013) states “in an exchange and constant interaction, it offers strength; it is listen, learn and put yourself in doubt. It is leaving behind your own perceptions from time to time and contemplate through the eyes of other’s. It is an antioxidant, motivation, always enriching; cooperativeness versus competitiveness.”

The four collaborations illustrated the variety of forms cultural interaction and diversity can take in our field. Paradigma showed how the work of two institutions could reflect different cultural aspects when presented together in context at an exhibition. Meanwhile Connecting Identities offered a new way of collaborating by integrating different modes of communication to the design process and final outcome. Borax 08001 drew from the existing cultural diversity between the members to generate strength, and achieve goals together, reaching a wider audience by presenting jewellery outside its usual context. Gray Area Gris demonstrated that blending two cultures, bringing them closer could expand the meaning of jewellery, generate new questions in the field and bring greater awareness of the importance of building bridges and connections between artists.

Despite this, a possibility exists that these very bridges potentially heighten the risks of homogenisation of contemporary jewellery. Therefore it is crucial our individual artistic language remains vivid, not forgetting our beliefs or cultural roots. As Saez Villanova (2012) concurs, “It is very good to know about others without losing our own identity, culture and what you have to say, because otherwise homogenisation can occur. It is important not only to see at a glance where you come from and if you are different, but conceptually keep what characterises you as a person and see how you have grown.” Not only this, time to adapt is a prerequisite, and understanding can be difficult at times when language becomes a barrier in certain cases, but it is up to individuals to overcome this problem, as some artists demonstrated this can be done. In the future, it would be good to see organisations and institutions integrating these collaborations into their programmes to a more significant degree.




Borax (no date) About us [Accessed 30/12/2012]

Borax (2011) Jewellery Displaced [Accessed 30/12/2012]

Cunningham, J. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: PARADIGMA EXHIBITION [Interview (notes) conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 26/11/2012]

Denote, J. (2012) Why En Construccion -Under Construction-? [Accessed 01/01/2013]

Game, A. (2009) Paradigma Catalogue, 2009. Birmingham: Publisher unknown

Gimeno, C. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: BORAX 08001 [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 31/12/2012]

Hermsen, H. (2011) International Jewellery Collaborations: CONNECTING IDENTITIES [Email documents sent to Pfeifer, A] [Date 16/11/2012]

Hunt, T. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: PARADIGMA EXHIBITION [Interview (notes) conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 05/12/2012]

Jurado, D. (2013) International Jewellery Collaborations: BORAX 08001 [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 13/01/2013]

Manilla, J. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: GRAY AREA GRIS [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 20/12/2012]

Martinez Linares, C. (2013) International Jewellery Collaborations: BORAX 08001 [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 03/01/2013]

Puig Cuyas, R. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: PARADIGMA EXHIBITION [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Sent 07/12/2012]

Rois, G. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: BORAX 08001 [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 23/12/2012]

Saez Villanova, E. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: BORAX 08001 [Spyke interview (notes) by Pfeifer, A] [Date 22/12/2012]

Swillen, A. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: CONNECTING IDENTITIES [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 10/12/2012]

Vallarta Siemelink, V. (2009) Take a Walk on the Grey Area [Accessed 02/01/2013]

Van Oost, N. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: BORAX 08001 [Skype interview (notes) by Pfeifer, A] [Date 21/12/2012]

Wolf, R. (2012) International Jewellery Collaborations: CONNECTING IDENTITIES [Email interview conducted by Pfeifer, A] [Date 02/12/2012]



Image References 

Fig. 1: Fachhochschule Düsseldorf – Design department entrance (no date) [Photographer unknown] [Accessed 24/12/2012]

Fig. 2: Fachhochschule Düsseldorf – Jewellery student’s studio and Design department corridor (2012) [Photographed by Pfeifer, A.]

Fig. 3: Escola Massana building – Barcelona (no date) [Email Interview with Puig Cuyas, R. directed by Pfeifer, A.] [Sent 07/01/2013]

Fig. 4: Jewellery workshop, Escola Massana – Barcelona (no date) [Email Interview with Puig Cuyas, R directed by Pfeifer, A] [Sent 07/01/2013]

Fig. 5: Bartlett, K. (2009), Brooch 1 [Photographer unknown] (2009) Paradigma Catalogue. Birmingham: Publisher unknown, p.32

Fig. 6: Subirana Viñolas, U. (2009), Bamenda [Photographer unknown] (2009) Paradigma Catalogue. Birmingham: Publisher unknown, p.40

Fig. 7: Malila, M. (2011), Triptych, Finland [Photographed by Malila, M.] [Email Interview conducted by Pfeifer, A.] [Sent 18/12/2012]

Fig. 8: Wolf, R. (2011) Triptych, Düsseldorf [Photographed by Wolf, R.] [Email Interview conducted by Pfeifer, A.] [Sent 25/11/2012]

Fig. 9: Swillen, A. (2011), Cups, neckpiece [Photographed by Swillen, A.] [Email Interview conducted by Pfeifer, A.]   [Sent 10/12/2012]

Fig. 10: Malila, M. (2011), Whitefence, neckpiece [Photographed by Malila, M.] [Email Interview conducted by Pfeifer, A.] [Sent 18/12/2012]

Fig. 11, 12: Swillen, A. (2011), PMD, brooches [Photographed by Swillen, A.] [Email Interview conducted by   Pfeifer, A] [Sent 10/12/2012]

Fig. 13: Contretas, T. (no date), Object Memory, brooch, [Photographed by Cotter, P.] [Accessed 31/12/2012]

Fig. 14: Jurado, D. (no date), Lilith and the love affairs, brooch, [Photographer unknown] [Accessed 31/12/2012]

Fig. 15: Borax 08001 (2011), What do you have in your hands? Project-photographs,[Photographer unknown]¿qué-tienes-entre-las-manos/ [Accessed 31/12/2012]

Fig. 16, 17: Borax 08001 (2001), Jewellery Displaces Project – Amsterdam-photographs, [Photographer unknown] [Accessed 31/12/2012]

Fig. 18, 19: Jose Vasconcelos-Mexican Library (Opening Ceremony of Gray Area Gris Symposium) – Mexico City (2010), [Photographed by Vallarta Siemelink, V.] [Accessed 13/01/2013]

Fig.20, 21: Saez Villanova, E. (2009), The Catalan Landscape – The Sky, the Mountains-photographs, [Photographed by Saez Villanova, E.] [Accessed 13/01/2012]





Anon. (2012) Jewel book: InternationalAnnual of Contemporary jewel Art 2012/13. Oostkamp: Stiching Kunstboek bvba

Bergesio, MC./ Gaspar, M./ Saviana, L. (2008) Timetales: Time’s perceptions in research jewellery [Catalogue]. Barcelona:  Lucca Preziosa contemporary jewellery

Birmingham City University (2010) University award takes jewellery to Beijing [Accessed 20/12/2012]

Cherry, N./ Murray, K./ Goring, E./ Various other artists (2012) Transplantation – A sense of Place and Culture: British and Australian Narrative Jewellery [Catalogue]. Lincoln: The University of Lincoln

Cunningham, J./ Moignard, E./ Game, A. (2005) Maker-Wearer-Viewer: Contemporary Narrative European Jewellery [Catalogue]. Place of Publication unknown: Publisher Unknown

Escola Massana (2009) Noticias: Exposición ‘Paradigma’ [Accessed 20/12/2012]

Escola Massana (2010) Noticias: Exposición ‘Paradigma’ [Accessed 20/12/2012]

Mass, B./ Dahm, J./ Dobler, G./ Various other artists (2005) Choice – Contemporary Jewellery from Germany: An Exhibition Project For Germany in Japan. Place of Publication unknown: Holder, E. & Hermsen, H.

National Museums Scotland (2012) A Sense of Place: New Jewellery from Northern Lands [Accessed 20/10/2012]

Televisio de Catalunya 3 (2011) L’Escola Massana [Video] [Accessed 18/12/2012]

Universidad de Buenos Aires (2012) La joya como discurso: (Entrevista a Francisca Kweitel) [Accessed 09/11/2012]




Annelisse Pfeifer is an student on the last year at  Jewelry School in Birmingham, where she studies the in Jewellery and Silversmithing.


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